Monday, April 16, 2012

                                This is part of our home evening group in the Institute "living room."
                                                  More home evening group having a lesson.
                You know that spring has arrived when the birds return to Creamers Field Bird Refuge.  There are many more swans than we have seen before.
    If you look closely, you will see many swans and Canada geese that have returned to this part of Creamers Field.  We actually live just a little right of center on the hills in the background.
                                      Some of the Canada geese looking for something to eat.
                                This is a male muskox at the UAF Large Animal Research Station. 
Two muskoxen and a missionary.
                              You have to look carefully to see these signs of spring -- pussy willows.

Our drive way is almost clear with some heavy shoveling.  Now we will have a small river running down it until all the snow is melted.  Breakup is an interesting new season.

This week as been wonderful again.  We have been holding home evenings in the Institute for a few weeks now.  The foyer makes a nice living room when we bring out the comfortable chairs.  It was the day after Easter, and for an activity we hunted for Easter eggs inside.  Some of the grandchildren might be able to find a few eggs in the pictures.  Most of the eggs were found.  However, I kept finding eggs tucked in places all week. 

Our classes have been great.  We never know exactly how many to expect.  The attendance to our classes on Thursday as been increasing.  That always makes me happy.  We really enjoy the students here.  Because BYU Idaho is between sessions, we had three students from a family in Delta make the 100 mile trip to attend class as well.  It's a long trip for them.  It makes me so glad to see their determination to come to class.  

On Wednesday, we had our last early-morning inservice class for our seminary teachers for the year.  We may have one before we leave before school starts up again in the fall.  Our teachers are so committed to helping their students understand and apply the teachings of the Old Testament to their lives.  We appreciate all they are doing and the sacrifices they are making.  Three of our teachers will be leaving the area before school starts again.  Things always change.  As the school year gets close to the end, we continue to prepare for graduation and for having materials ready for next year.  

This weekend has been our Stake Conference with Elder Paul V. Johnson of the Seventy as our visiting authority.  His official assignment is the Church Education System.  We have learned much from him in our inservice meetings that have been televised from Salt Lake City since we arrived in Alaska.  Our Stake is focusing this year on building the Stake by helping us focus on the "next saving ordinance."  We had some wonderful talks in the Saturday evening session.  I am grateful for a Stake Presidency that is so aware of the needs of the Stake.  Our conference sessions are also made available on the web for those in outlying areas and to review again later.  This is the same way we broadcast our class on Thursday.  Technology is a wonderful blessing to us in Alaska where our Stake is so spread out.  

All of the missionaries met with Elder Johnson on Saturday morning for a question and answer session and some great instruction.  On Sunday, Pres. and Sister Beesley were here to speak as well.  We love to hear their council and direction.  They had just returned from a training meeting in Utah and had so much to share.  I heard a comment that Pres. Beesley is rivaling Pres. Uchtdorf in his story associations about flying.  One highlight for me was to hear a Primary children's choir sing before conference began on Sunday.  It was so fun to watch their faces as they sang with all their hearts. I do miss our association with little children.  In the afternoon there was another short fireside for all the Young Single Adults in the stake.  It focused on agency and how we give Satan part of our agency as we follow his enticings in the world.  He binds us with "flaxen" cords until they become "strong cords" and then even "chains of death."  The wonderful part is that the Savior through our repentance can help us break those cords and chains so that we can gain our agency back and choose to follow Christ.  Everything depends on the choices we make and the Atonement of the Savior.  

Our weather has been so warm.  We really enjoy being able feel the warmth of the sun.  Early in the week we stopped to see if there were any birds at Creamers Field and found lots of snow.  By the end of the week there were many geese and swans that had returned.  The geese will be there until they leave in the fall once again.  You can always tell when the birds return because there are so many people there to watch them and take pictures.  We also stopped to check out the muskoxen.  They keep the males and females separate most of the time.  You can still see who is dominant as they butt heads to take over in the at the feeding spot.  The musk ox has a very fine and warm fur under the outer hair that is very expensive.  When it starts to be shed in the spring, they take the muskox to a small pen and brush out the Qiviat wool.  A scarf sells for $250.00 to $350.00.  It is the softest and warmest wool in the world.  

We love being in Alaska and serving the Lord.  We pray for the Lord's blessings to be with our family and friends at home.

With love,
JoAnn and Jim